Google's latest Android version of Google Maps, 5.2.1, now includes route recommendations designed to help drivers avoid traffic.
Google Maps Navigation, a beta feature available in the Google Maps app in the Android Market, provides free voice-guided navigation assistance to users of Android mobile phones. Previously, the app tried to recommend the quickest way to reach one's destination but it didn't account for traffic conditions. The latest update does take traffic into account, and hopefully will help drivers reach their destinations faster.
"[W]e’re happy to announce that Google Maps Navigation (Beta) will now automatically route you around traffic," wrote Google Maps software engineer Roy Williams in a blog post. "With more than 35 million miles driven by Navigation users every day, this should add up to quite a bit of time saved!"
According to the 2010 Urban Mobility Report, published by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University, the cost of traffic congestion as measured in 2009 dollars rose from $24 billion in 1982 to $115 billion in 2009. The cost to the average commuter reached $808 annually in 2009, up from $351 in 1982. And the peak delay for the average commuter more than doubled, rising from 14 hours in 1982 to 34 hours in 2009.
Google says that its routing algorithms will apply the company's knowledge of current and past traffic data to help select the optimal route. However, the company previously discounted the value of past traffic data when, in 2008, it noted that "past performance is no guarantee of future results."
And Google is again offering a caveat: "Keep in mind that we can’t guarantee that Navigation will be able to find a faster way, but it will always try to get you where you’re going as fast as possible," wrote Williams.
It will be interesting to see whether Google offers any metrics in the future that demonstrate whether its route recommendations do in fact save time for drivers.
The service can be used in North America and Europe where both Navigation and real-time traffic data are available.